Stintz Supports LRT, Maybe (Update 3)

Updated January 23 at 11:00pm:  Links to updated coverage including signs of movement toward a new transit plan have been added.

From the Star:

Tess Kalinowski writes about support building for a new plan.  In this version, a surface-subway LRT on Eglinton frees up money for, possibly, a short extension on Sheppard to Victoria Park and something on Finch West.

It’s too early to tell which combination will win out, and there’s no reference to eastern Scarborough.

Martin Cohn writes about the imminent collapse of the McGuinty-Ford transit deal.  We learn that Queen’s Park was prepared to pay the extra cost of expropriating property to widen Eglinton to compensate for space lost to surface LRT, but this option was rejected by Ford.

A Star Editorial congratulates Karen Stintz for telling us the obvious and urges her to begin a campaign for a subway-surface line on Eglinton.  At this rate, they’ll be casting a bronze of Stintz arm-in-arm with David Miller.

From the Globe:

Marcus Gee writes favourably about a move to bring Eglinton back to the surface.

From the National Post:

Natalie Alcoba writes about the proposed change including comments from supportive Councillors.

Updated January 23 at 5:50 pm:  I recently spoke with Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx, about this issue.  Notes from our conversation are at the end of this article.

Adrian Morrow reports in today’s Globe that TTC Chair Karen Stintz feels an all-underground Eglinton line should just be what it is, a subway, but that it belongs on the surface as LRT for its outer suburban section.

Karen Stintz argues it makes more sense to put the LRT underground only along the most congested part of the route, in midtown, while building it on the surface in the spacious suburbs.

“If the decision is to go with an LRT, it should be at-grade,” she said. “If there’s a decision to put it underground, it should be a subway.”

That’s an interesting position for someone in the Ford camp because it continues the anti-streetcar rhetoric of the Mayor’s office.  If Eglinton is built as a subway line, the option of converting it to LRT and resurrecting Transit City falls because a major link (and the proposed main shops for the LRT network) would vanish.

As Morrow points out in his article, other systems use a combination of surface and underground alignments (including Boston where downtown streetcars went underground over a century ago) so that a network of surface routes can share a common tunnel in the congested central area while switching to a simpler surface alignment elsewhere.

If Eglinton were to become a subway, the problem of valley crossings won’t disappear and Metrolinx will still face the problem of either going under several valleys, or bridging them with parallel structures.

The real question a subway option begs is the future of the SRT.  If Eglinton becomes a subway, it will not easily through-route to Scarborough Town Centre along the existing alignment, and this will reopen the debate over a Bloor-Danforth extension.

Morrow’s article implies that Stintz may be shifting into the pro-LRT camp, but I am not convinced.  If she were really shifting positions, there would be more talk about revival of some parts of Transit City, notably the Finch West line which, unlike Sheppard East, is completely independent of the Ford subway proposals.

The pending release of Gordon Chong’s report on financing the Sheppard Subway will trigger, finally, a debate on the future of Toronto’s transit technologies at Council.  We will see whether Stintz is truly an LRT supporter, or simply pitching Ford’s “no streetcars” view of the world.

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